Atlanta, Georgia: - As part of his ongoing two weeks tour of the USA , Mexico and Poland - HH The Dalai Lama spoke at the Gwinnet Arena in Atlanta, Georgia at a program "The Pillars of Responsible Citizenship in the 21st Century Global Village" organized by the Emory University.
His Holiness commneced with his speech with the notion that todays young generation belong to the twenty-first century and have the future ahead of them.We must reflect back to human history and humanity to realize the necessity of secular ethics and how increasingly relevant it has become in todays society.
"Historians say 200 million people died violently during the twentieth century, despite many wonderful developments, it was a period of bloodshed and violence. I believe that if we think of others as our human brothers and sisters there will be no room to cheat, deceive and fight them. We need to change our way of solving problems and conflicts; instead of force we need to rely on dialogue. We need to think less of 'them' and 'us' and take others into account. There will always be sources of conflict between us, but when they arise we need to talk them through not fight about them."
We need to make this new century the century of compassion - he said.
"Nowadays we are so interdependent that the destruction of our neighbours means our own destruction too. This is why we have to think of building a more compassionate society and we need to do it less on the basis of faith than on reasoning. If we apply common sense we can see that among our neighbours families who love and trust each other greet others in a friendly way. On the other hand, even when a family is materially better off, if they lack warm feelings for each other, if they are jealous and mistrustful, moved by suspicion, they're not very happy."
To ensure our physical health we need peace of mind. Therefore, just as we need to observe physical hygiene to stay well, we need to develop emotional hygiene too.
"Society will not be changed by UN intervention or by rulings from Capitol Hill. Society is made up of individuals, so change must start with individuals. Change will come not from giving or spending money, but from changing our minds. We can overcome our problems by applying secular ethics based on common sense, common experience and scientific findings. Thank you - now questions."
Post lunch, he met key members of the Emory-Tibet Medical Science Initiative and Tibetan Medicinal Research who explained some of the scientific research they are conducting on Tibetan medicine.
Back in the Arena for a panel discussion on 'Secular Ethics and Education' His Holiness remarked that while modern science has tended to focus on material, measurable things, mind is also part of reality, so science should include mind and the emotions in its field of study. He noted that many of the problems we face are our own creation and their source is not something physical; the trouble maker is within us.
"Destructive emotions like anger and fear destroy our peace of mind and when our peace of mind is gone, our physical well-being is gone too. Through education and awareness we can learn to reduce our negative emotions. I have been working with scientists, like Richie Davidson here, who has been studying this for 20-30 years, not for wealth or fame, but to make the world a better place. And I'd like to thank them very much and ask them to keep it up."
His Holiness responded to a question about the role of religion by explaining that the major religions have had and will continue to have a role in fostering qualities like love and compassion. However, each religion has limits or boundaries and what we need today is a sense of ethics that goes beyond such boundaries. Hence the need for secular ethics.
Before the day's discussions came to an end, Emory University President Wagner presented certificates of appreciation to Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi and his mentor Dr Robert Paul for their work in co-ordinating the Emory-Tibet Partnership, which has given rise to the Robert A Paul Emory-Tibet Science Initiative. His Holiness added his own appreciation that like himself Geshe la came from a remote village, and has proved to be very useful.
In his usual uncanny humbleness and intellect, the Dala Lama mesmerized the 10,000 strong audience that had gathered there.The underlying common idea that emerged was, the need for a sustainable sense of compassion that responds to all humanity - and this is not just about helping others but training the mind and realize that helping others in turn benefits us.